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Mayor Delroy Williams should perhaps be given credit for finally acting to remedy the outrageous – and probably worse – incompetence with which his Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) regulates construction in the capital. But Mr. Williams did not go far enough. His new regime is marginal at best. What was recently announced should be standard in any half-decent operation.

More importantly, while the problem may be more obvious and acute in the KSAMC, the problem of poor property development oversight transcends Mr. Williams’ jurisdiction. The rot infects all local government authorities and other institutions. It has been like this for a long time and people talk about it more than in whispers.

A lasting solution therefore requires national action. It must start with a clear understanding of the depth and extent of the corrosion.

Mayor Williams was no doubt embarrassed to act by Supreme Court Justice Natalie Hart-Hines’ ruling late last month, in which she not only denied a developer’s request to waive covenants on a property in the Arcadia area of ​​St Andrew, but called out the KSAMC and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for failing to do their job properly in granting and monitoring building permits.

First, the land for which the multi-family apartment was approved, as Justice Hart-Hines noted, did not meet the minimum size for such a development. Worse still, the developer built more habitable rooms than he had permission to. Officially authorized 12 one-bedroom apartments, he instead built 32 rooms in 15 apartments and attempted to hide the actual dimensions by not building the interior walls. This, presumably, would happen later.

NOT SINGLE

Judge Hart-Hines discovered these diversions not because KSAMC inspectors reported them, or the other violations. She discovered it because she personally visited the site. Judge described KSAMC’s behavior as ‘dilatory’ and used Shakespeare quote Hamlet in his soliloquy referring to the murder of his father, to underline the dereliction of the agencies involved: “It’s an unweeded garden growing to seed. Things are gross and gross in nature.

Justice Hart-Hines added: “The garden metaphor in Hamlet was used by Shakespeare to represent the decadence of a country when it becomes lawless and corrupt because those responsible for pruning and managing it fail to fulfill their responsibility. In this case, it appears that the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) have been dilatory in their mandate to enforce local environmental laws and regulations. planning and to promote sustainable development while respecting the environment. building located on the property, which is the subject of this application.

The case Judge Hart-Hines ruled on was not unique. There have been several other court cases recently involving regulators appearing to exercise their discretion in granting environmental and building permits for construction that did not meet the normal criteria for approval. Builders often violate the terms of permits granted.

Also, developers usually start construction before getting court approval to change the covenants. Their assumption, it seems, is that people affected by development, or who have standing, are reluctant or can ill afford to challenge their actions in court. Increasingly, however, such challenges are arising and residents are increasingly voicing their concerns. Authorities are under increasing pressure to uphold citizens’ rights.

A year ago, with public attention to KSAMC’s failure to spot or do anything about permit violations for a multi-family development until the matter was highlighted by the press Mr. Williams announced a review committee at KSAMC to deal with these kinds of projects. How this committee was to function in relation to the society building committee was never specified. It is also unclear whether it has ever been activated.

He did, however, feel the pressure to keep up. His latest actions include the chief engineer of KSAMC having to produce regular reports on the number of construction works in progress in KSAMC, a minimum number of site inspections; multiple inspectors must review construction applications prior to approval; and complaints about endorsements should be logged.

These, along with transparency on building applications, should have been an integral part of the KSAMC approval regime, rather than new initiatives to deal with a crisis.

INDEPENDENT EXPERTISE

Probably the most important of Mr Williams’ revelations was that he ordered an internal audit of the company’s building approvals process and asked Prime Minister Andrew Holness to launch a wider ‘interrogation’ of the system , which, it seems, would include a review of what’s going on at NEPA.

We agree with Mr. Williams on this point, except that these reviews and audits should not be internal functions. They should be undertaken by independent individuals with expertise in environmental planning, development, construction and logistics. All local government authorities and other agencies involved in the approval process must be audited.

We also suggest that the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) be asked to do a sweep of all agencies.

In addition, the Local Governance Act allows municipal governments to invite unelected members to sit on their standing committees and participate in their discussions, without the right to vote. In cases where this is not the case, it should be instituted, starting with construction committees. If the right people are invited, it would help add expertise and transparency to the approval process.